Oil Spill Casts Dark Shadow over Louisiana’s Fishing Community

Anxiety grows as fishing closures increase due to spill

06-24-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
Frank Camp

There are few people who love their jobs more than Louisiana's shrimpers, fishermen and boat captains. For them, working out on the water every day is more than a livelihood. It’s a way of life. 

As oil continues to spew at an alarming rate, stress and anxiety levels are rising among those whose lives depend on the Gulf's fisheries. Earlier this week, NOAA again increased the commercial and recreational fishing closure in the oil spill affected areas of the Gulf of Mexico. With nearly 36 percent of the Gulf closed to fishing, there is growing uncertainty over what the future will hold for Louisiana's storied fishing community.

"We have a way of life out here that's unique," said Frank Campo (pictured left), owner of Campo's Marina in Shell Beach, Louisiana. "And we sure don’t want to lose it."

For the second, third, fourth, fifth and even sixth generation fishermen, guides and business owners of St. Bernard Parish, it is impossible to separate their jobs from their culture. In fact, the two are so intertwined, many worry that the loss of one will mean the loss of another.

Charles Robin

"With a hurricane you can rebuild," said Campo. "It's all material stuff. But when you take this away it's not material, it's your way of life."

The Gulf Coast states rely heavily on commercial fishing to sustain their local economies. According to NOAA, commercial fisheries brought in a total $659 million in shellfish and finfish in 2008. Just over 3 million people took recreational fishing trips in the Gulf that year as well.

Charlie Robin III, a lifelong fisherman who lives and works near Shell Beach, says it's not knowing what the long term effects of the spill will be that makes living with this crisis so hard.

"Hurricane Katrina put us a big hole," said Robin. "But we managed to dig our way out. Now, we are back in the hole, but this time we have no idea how we are gonna get out of it."

Check out the video below and read our story on Louisiana's Islenos community to learn more about the cultural impacts of the BP oil spill.

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